A British citizen of Sri Lankan descent, Chamali Fernando is not one who shies away from a challenge. When she was selected by the Conservative Party led by Prime Minister David Cameron to contest from the Cambridge constituency in the May 7 British general election, she plunged head-on into the campaign. The seat was won [...]

Sunday Times 2

Chamali: A political lesson in Cambridge

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A British citizen of Sri Lankan descent, Chamali Fernando is not one who shies away from a challenge. When she was selected by the Conservative Party led by Prime Minister David Cameron to contest from the Cambridge constituency in the May 7 British general election, she plunged head-on into the campaign. The seat was won by the rival candidate from the Labour Party, but for Chamali it was not the end of the road. It has made her more determined to pursue her love for politics.

Chamali Fernando: Politics runs in her blood

“There were many who asked me to wait till I got a safe constituency to contest from, but I wanted to face the challenge of contesting in an area which has a lot of appeal to me,” Chamali who was in Sri Lanka recently for a brief visit said.
A barrister and a graduate from the University College, London (UCL), Chamali was attracted to Cambridge as she saw it as a challenging constituency with its mix of a big student population and urban intellectuals.

Her political journey to Cambridge as the Conservative Party’s candidate began with a love for politics, which, she said, was instilled in her at a young age. Her father, Sumal Fernando, a lawyer from Sri Lankan, migrated to Britain in 1971 where Chamali and her brother were born and raised.

“My father was a political activist when he lived in Sri Lanka and when he moved to Britain, he continued his engagement in politics.” Her father contested twice unsuccessfully for parliamentary seats in Britain and the exposure to politics was addictive.

“Politics was pretty much a daily topic of conversation when the family got together while ‘Breakfast With Frost,’ the famous current affairs programme on the BBC aired on Sunday mornings was a must watch for them. “I remember accompanying my father at a very young age, while he campaigned door-to-door and I enjoyed the entire process, “she recalled. Ever since, she has been bitten by the politics bug.

Her big break in politics came in 2007 when she was shortlisted by the Liberal Democratic Party to run for Mayor of London. She failed to secure the candidacy, but it thrust her into the political limelight and made many to take notice of her abilities as an up and coming young politician.

Later she parted ways with the Liberal Democrats and joined the Conservative Party mainly due policy differences that did not agree with her line of thinking.┬áChamali is passionate about environmental issues and believes that younger generations who are detached from politics can be drawn into taking an interest in public life if the areas that interest them are addressed. “Many people care about climate change and in saving the planet for future generations. These groups are not engaged directly in politics, but as politicians we can attract them by taking up these issues seriously, “she said.

Chamali has got unexpected support from Sri Lankans living here and abroad during her election campaign. “Many Sri Lankans have sent messages on social media and called me up as well to extend their support. It has been wonderful,” she said.

For now, Chamali will continue with her legal practice while looking forward to the next general election or even a by-election that may happen sooner. “I will continue to be in politics. It’s given me the chance to meet many people and talk to them directly about the issues that concern them and I will continue to engage with them in the years ahead, “she said.

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